Home / Section: Editorial cartooning
CSotD: Freedom, Responsibility and Rent
Tomorrow is World Press Freedom Day, and, as Ann Telnaes notes, it couldn’t come a moment too soon, a point made at Saturday’s WHCA Dinner but largely lost in coverage of Joe Biden and Trevor Noah’s remarks.
Much as I despise the event, both Biden and Noah delivered some great material, not, perhaps, as incisive as Stephen Colbert’s famous “truthiness” speech which made his audience squirm more than they wanted to, but tough enough to get some uncomfortable laughs.
Which is the goal of political humor.
It’s a convenient untruth to say that, if you’ve offended both sides, you’re getting it right. Too often, offending both sides just means you didn’t understand the topic.
A political joke that hits home, rather, should spark a level of recognition that results in both a laugh and a groan from an honest listener.
That said, their combined success, and the fact that the dinner is valued more as entertainment than for insight, meant that the commentary on press freedom was largely overshadowed. I couldn’t find a clip on YouTube or elsewhere, but you’ll find the relevant six-minute segment here.
I was particularly struck, not by the roster of killed in Ukraine, because death is part of war, but by the remarks about threatened and their equipment attacked, on January 6, because that shouldn’t be part of news coverage in peacetime .
Putin provides permission for those who kill reporters in Ukraine, but he’s a war criminal.
I’m more concerned about those in this country who create an atmosphere where mistrusting and physically attacking the press is encouraged.
To have had a president who specifically invited crowds to attack reporters was terrifying to anyone who values a free press, but, as Christopher Weyant Points out, current primary races indicate that supporting false interpretations of the attempted coup, and believing in the Big Lie behind it, have become litmus tests for anyone hoping to gain a Republican nomination.
This ought to scare the hell out of you, but, like the apocryphal frogs in the pot, perhaps the transition away from freedom and democracy has been so gradual that we didn’t notice.
However, we’ve reached a point where the level of hostility between parties has become such a knee-jerk reaction that conservatives are condemning the Homeland Security’s attempt to rein in disinformation without bothering to find out what this new department is even trying to accomplish.
Bob Gorrell (Creators) assumes it will dispense lies about our Southern border, when, in fact, one of its two declared missions is to counter the lies spread by coyotes and others that make people think they can easily come here.
In a free nation, political cartoonists have a moral and ethical obligations to be, and learning the department’s purpose didn’t require Woodward/Bernstein level investigative digging: It was contained in the Associated Press’s report on the new department:
I would suggest that it requires a more concerted effort to avoid knowing this than to find it out.
However, if you operate on the belief that the Other Side is continually lying, and then confine yourself to media explicitly dedicated to preserving and reinforcing that opinion, anything is possible:
“I can’t believe that!” said Alice.
“Can’t you?” the Queen said in a pitying tone. “Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.”
Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said: “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
But clarity is as important as honesty. Even truth can become lost in a riptide of competing facts. Clay Jones offers what seems to be a confusing two-fer by addressing the overall economy but only giving one example.
He offered this explanation at his Facebook political cartooning site: “As rental prices increase across the nation from 30 to over 50%, Biden said he’s not worried about a recession.”
True, but, as is, the panels suggest that Biden responded with indifference specifically to housing costs, which are only one facet of either inflation or recession.
Here’s what he actually said:
But Jones is right that people need help: As alluded to yesterdaythe Democrats seem to be failing to address the “kitchen table” issues average Americans face, and housing costs are certainly high on that list.
As this three-minute report from CNN noteslower-middleclass people are being forced from their apartments and houses by leaps in rent, or, at best, into such straightened budgets that they cannot get from paycheck to paycheck.
Not only are reasonably successful people shut out of purchasing homes by inflated prices and rising mortgage rates, as Matt Davies The illustrations, though there is some defense for rising rents, assuming that landlords are beset by both adjustable rate mortgages and rising property taxes.
It’s not an ironclad defense, mind yougiven that adjustable rates haven’t gone up much at all, it makes no sense to refinance a fixed-rate mortgage and very few communities go through the long, contentious and convoluted process of reappraisal more often than every few years.
In fact, it’s a pretty lame defense. The most likely reason I can think of for jacking up rents is that you want more money, possibly so you can buy more housing and jack up the rent there, too.
Maybe I spent too much time as a reporter covering residential real estate or maybe I spent too much time as a guitarslinger playing for barowners with Cadillacs, beach houses and pinkie rings who couldn’t afford to pay the band.
And perhaps I’d be happier some place like Australia, where nice folks like First Dog on the Moon are not shy or overly polite about criticizing the ruling class:
The point of all this is that it is the absolute duty of a free press to keep the feet of the powerful pressed to the fire, but, to paraphrase the expression, with great Press Freedom comes great Press Responsibility.
Political cartoonists must be both honest and clear.
While, to paraphrase another expression, “If you can’t bring the heat, get out of the kitchen.”